October 21, 2014
By Nina Schutzman
Over the next four decades, the mid-Hudson Valley is projected to become more and more diverse, requiring new approaches to meet language and cultural challenges.
Hispanic and multiracial populations in Dutchess and Ulster counties are expected to grow over the next few decades, while the overall population, including the number of Dutchess’ black and Asian residents, is expected to drop, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
Educational, law enforcement and health care institutions have to find ways to prepare for the changes coming in the communities they serve, said Jonathan Drapkin, CEO and President of Hudson Valley Pattern for Progress.
“I don’t think this change should be viewed as a good or bad thing, it’s just a reality,” Drapkin added. Residents from different ethnic backgrounds “may be up against some barriers... that we need to understand better. It’s not simply about language barriers. There are cultural barriers.”
In Dutchess County, the diverse population is expected to grow even as the overall population declines, according to the USA Today Census diversity index, which measures the statistical likelihood that two people picked randomly from an area will be a different race and ethnicity, on a scale of 0 to 100.
When 297,500 residents called Dutchess home in 2010, the diversity index was 43, according to the Census. By 2060, the diversity index is expected to rise to 62 while the overall population drops to 295,700. That population is expected to rise until 2030 with more than 316,000 people expected to live in Dutchess then.
In Ulster, the diversity index was 33 in 2010. It’s expected to jump to 59 in 2060.
For both counties, the largest increases are expected for the Hispanic and multiracial populations.
There were about 31,300 Hispanics and 7,800 multiracial Dutchess residents in 2010. Those numbers are expected to grow to nearly 53,400 and 30,900, respectively, by 2060, the Census reports.
Dutchess’ Hispanic population has grown by 85 percent since 2000, a larger increase than the rest of the state, except for New York City, and the nation, while Ulster’s Hispanic population grew 56 percent, according to Mid-Hudson Valley Community Profiles.
To adapt to the changes, schools have hired more English as a Second Language teachers, emphasized the importance of multicultural programs and used learning materials that reflect students’ diverse backgrounds, officials said.
From 2000 to 2012, all of the local public school districts in Dutchess and Ulster counties had increases in student diversity, according to Journal archives.
The Dover Union Free School District experienced the biggest student diversity jump, from 9 percent of the district population in 2000, to 23 percent in 2012, according to state Education Department data.
Making people comfortable with diversity begins with educating the youngest residents, said Dover school Superintendent Mike Tierney.
“It starts with a philosophy that diversity is an asset,” Tierney said. “It’s not something to be looked down upon.”
Dover initiated a diversity committee nearly 15 years ago, when an “outside speaker” talking to students said things they found “very inappropriate,” he said. The district wanted to “address their frustrations,” the superintendent said.
“It was a good place for everyone to come together,” Tierney said of the committee. “When I say diversity, I don’t just mean race — there are all kinds of differences and abilities. We want tolerance for everyone.”
Despite diversity increases, Dutchess’ population is still 82 percent white.
But certain communities have very diverse populations. Nearly half of Poughkeepsie’s residents are black or Hispanic, according to the most recent Census data.
City of Poughkeepsie police Chief Ron Knapp and others have said they want more minorities on the police force, which has 94 sworn members but fewer than 10 minority officers, and a couple of Spanish-speaking officers, according to Journal archives.
They’d like “to get a more diversified department,” said City Detective Lt. Matt Clark.
Recruitment to find candidates to take the Civil Service exam for potential local police officers took place “in different communities,” he added. The next exam is Nov. 15.
Having interpreters available to speak to victims or witnesses is also important, Clark said, and it’s a more common occurrence now than it was even 10 years ago.
Health Quest, which operates a number of Hudson Valley medical facilities, hires bilingual staff for all facets of employment, said John Nelson, director of public and community affairs.
The three hospitals Health Quest owns are equipped with a phone-based interpreter service that lets providers speak with patients in 150 languages, Nelson added.
At Vassar Brothers Medical Center in Poughkeepsie, an in-person interpreter service is operated by bilingual staff who volunteer to be on-call during their shifts, Nelson said.
“In order to do that, they have to pass a test and then they go through rigorous training,” he said. “Our in-person service interprets tens of thousands of minutes per year,” with about 80 percent in Spanish.
Source: Poughkeepsie Journal